Two veteran power forwards are set to face each other for the first time in nearly three years when Nicolo Melli and AX Armani Exchange Milan (4-0) welcome James Gist and LDLC ASVEL Villeurbanne (3-1) to the Mediolanum Forum on Thursday night in a game with top-of-the table implications.
Melli and Gist have been rivals on Turkish Airlines EuroLeague floors for more than a decade. Both made their EuroLeague debuts in the 2010-11 season, Gist for Partizan NIS Belgrade, while Melli joined Milan from his hometown of Reggio Emilia.
Gist has not missed a EuroLeague season since then and never played fewer than the 14 games from his debut season. Now in his 12th season, Gist also spent a season with Fenerbahce Ulker and half a season with Unicaja Malaga before joining Panathinaikos Athens in December 2012 for seven seasons. In the last two seasons before this, he was with Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade and FC Bayern Munich, respectively.
Gist has averaged 8.6 points and 4.2 rebounds for his career, shooting better than 53% on two-pointers and knocking down 142 three-point shots. Melli owns career averages of 7.4 points and 4.7 rebounds. He has been a better three-point shooter, in volume and accuracy rate, and has averaged more assists than Gist over his nine EuroLeague seasons.
Melli spent his first five EuroLeague seasons with Milan before playing two seasons apiece with Brose Bamberg and Fenerbahce. He helped the Turkish powerhouse reach two EuroLeague Final Fours, in 2018 and 2019, and after two years in the NBA has returned to Milan at age 30.
Melli and Gist have played 10 games against each other over the years. The first came in the Top 16's final round back in February 2012, when Milan beat Fenerbahce at Mediolanum Forum.
The last of those 10 games was in December 2018, when Melli's Fenerbahce beat Gist and Panathinaikos on the road in Athens 69-81. In those 10 games, Melli's teams have taken six wins over Gist's teams.
Gist has averaged 10.3 PIR, 8.7 points and 5.9 rebounds in those 10 games, compared to Melli's 9.2 PIR, 6.9 points and 3.5 rebounds. Gist has made 57.7% of his two-point shots while Melli knocked down a remarkable 51.7% of his three-pointers, averaging 1.5 per contest.
Thursday night will be another opportunity for these two veteran EuroLeague players to take each other's measure, with Milan poised to remain unbeaten, while ASVEL looks to continue its own great start.